CLAAP: 5 Steps to Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Writer sitting on couch with laptop

Do you ever feel your writing isn’t good enough? Is self-doubt derailing your new writing career? Perhaps thoughts like this have crossed your mind: “Why would anyone hire me? I don’t know what I am doing. I have no experience.” I know I felt that way when I first started writing. I was very worried that I didn’t have a portfolio or any statistics to back up my claims about what I could do.

Some people call this self-doubt imposter syndrome. So, what is it really? Imposter syndrome is your belief that you are not good enough. It stems from lack of confidence and feelings of inadequacy. You do not believe in yourself, so you think others will not believe in you either. (You can find out more here: Are You an Impostor? Take the Quiz.)

Imposter syndrome is a fairly widespread affliction. According to Psychology Today, “Around 25% to 30% of high achievers may suffer from imposter syndrome. And around 70% of adults may experience impostorism at least once in their lifetime, research suggests.”

If this sounds like you, what can you do about it?

The answer lies in building your self-confidence and turning off that nasty negative voice in your head that keeps saying you cannot do this. How? You need to CLAAP. These five steps will get you out of that mindset and well on your way to landing those paying clients.

1. Choose your niche

The first thing you should do is recognize what you already know and are passionate about. What jobs have you held? What activities were you involved with in school? What are your hobbies? You have certain skills — everybody does — so use those skills to overcome imposter syndrome. Confidence will come when you write about what you know.

Settling on a niche took me awhile. I didn’t like many of the jobs I’d done, and I have a lot of hobbies and interests, but couldn’t narrow it down to one. Writing and art have always been important to me, so I finally decided to lump all my hobbies under one umbrella: arts and crafts. Settling on something made me feel very relieved. Knowing I can talk about almost any craft makes me confident I can handle most client requests in my niche.

2. Learn the basics of copywriting

Learning new skills builds confidence. By taking AWAI’s foundational copywriting program, The AWAI Method™ for Becoming a Skilled, In-Demand Copywriter, you will be way ahead of most copywriters out there. Also, by taking classes, you will have some examples of your writing to put in your portfolio. There are also free resources available at AWAI (American Writers & Artists Institute) to help you learn more copywriting skills. (Check out AWAI's Article Archives here.)

3. Accept feedback with an open mind

Share your writing with others and ask for their constructive comments. Remember, they are not attacking you personally. They are trying to help you be a better writer. If your writing is not perfect, it does not mean you are a bad person, or stupid. It just means you need more practice.

Back when I was in journalism school, we had to critique our classmates’ news stories in front of the whole class. We were to say one good thing and one thing that needed improvement. The first comments stung and made me angry, but after 30 people told me what was good and what was bad (most of them saying the same things), I realized where the piece needed some work. I also realized they were not saying anything to be mean to me. It wasn’t personal. By the end of the semester, my writing had improved, and I was able to assess my own work more objectively. I was also confident I could work for a newspaper.

No one is perfect and if you are new to copywriting or content writing, your writing is not going to be perfect either. The good news is that you don’t have to be perfect. You just need to solve your client’s problem to their satisfaction. It all comes down to communicating with your client. Get to know them and what they want. You will find it is not so scary after that initial contact.

4. Act

Sometimes the best way to get over imposter syndrome is to just take action. The fear may go away in time, or it may not, so you must put yourself out there and see what happens. Yes, it may be risky, but what is really the worst thing that could happen? You get ignored. You may feel rejected. You learn that person may not need your help yet, but they may later — and it does not mean the next person you ask won’t say yes. Repeat after me out loud: “I am a copywriter!” and then tell your friends too.

5. Practice writing

The more you write, the more confidence you will gain. Enter some writing competitions or challenges. If you have writer’s block, try a “stream of consciousness” exercise (write whatever pops into your mind for 10 minutes), rewrite an example from your Swipe File by hand three times, or work on practice pieces for your portfolio and that you can post on your LinkedIn profile and your business website. You’ll improve with each effort, and feel more competent the more you practice.

If you follow these tips, you will CLAAP (Choose, Learn, Accept, Act, Practice) your way through your self-doubt and overcome imposter syndrome. Your new mindset should give you the confidence you need to reach out to those prospective clients so you can land those paid writing gigs.

Next steps? I challenge you to contact one prospect today and start a conversation. Learn how to search for clients in this Inside AWAI: Understanding What Freelance Writing Clients Want.

The AWAI Method™

The AWAI Method™ for Becoming a Skilled, In-Demand Copywriter

The AWAI Method™ combines the most up-to-date strategies, insights, and teaching methods with the tried-and-true copywriting fundamentals so you can take on ANY project — not just sales letters. Learn More »

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Published: March 15, 2024

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